The solitary magpie visits started on the day he got the call. He couldn’t help but  wonder whether his sorrow should have been kindled by loss or guilt.

Each time the tremulous tinted visions descended, it wasn’t concern that the world had changed beyond recognition that burnt a hole in his chest, but rather the stifling fear that this rural pocket of England had been somehow trapped in an earlier decade, unwilling and unable to yield, a relic steeped in pain. The newsreel span through a progression of intricate movements, but for this picturesque hamlet, all outside influence was seemingly repelled by the protection of the weather-beaten sign that she had painted. The petrol station nearby still manned by a local family who used to organise summer cricket matches on the well-manicured green and still do.

Memories and fevers had kept him from going back there for so long. Even in the throes of her illness when her voice became unfamiliar, he couldn’t bring himself to swallow the fear and take her hand. The burden of the past just felt too great, and so instead he hugged his knees in solitude some hundred miles away, wishing that the only thing that had changed, could have stayed the same. That she could have kept her mind.

The lillies started arriving soon after. Little bottle-green Honda’s saturated with the stench of stargazing sympathy.

Everything served as a reminder that he was the last of his line.